A soapbox can be a lonely place. Especially on Super Bowl Sunday. Especially when I really do want to see Bruno Mars at half time. Especially when it seems like everyone will be watching.
I used to love football (go ‘9ers!)
Because football is increasingly brutal and senselessly violent. And, in every NFL game, including the “super” one today, men will crash into one another and get their clocks cleaned and their bells rung.
It’s part of the game. And, people will cheer.
And, brains will be injured.
Some will heal. But, some won’t.
And, the National Football League will continue to do its best to pretend like everything is ok.
And, they will continue to ignore the broken and damaged brains in so many broken and damaged players who no longer play the game.
This season the NFL reported that players sustained 228 concussions – a decrease from the previous season.
But, concussion experts say these numbers are deceiving, since the NFL doesn’t catch every concussion and players often hide their symptoms.
Former NFL linebacker Gary Plummer estimates that he sustained five Grade I concussions in every game he played. Every game.
One thousand concussions over the course of his career.
He sustained a “mild” concussion in the NFC championship game and was still feeling dizziness and other effects of the injury when he led the Cowboys to their Super Bowl victory over the Bills. Today, he doesn’t remember a thing.
(Last week, Aikman told reporters he has had no recent issues related to the injury.)
But, a few forgotten hours is a small price to pay, compared to the debilitating, dark, and tragic reality facing many former players whose brains have been irreparably damaged by the game they loved.
On Friday, National Public Radio (NPR) told the story of Sean Morey, 37, who spent 10 years in the NFL and today struggles with the effects of long-ago, football-related concussions on a brain that has not – will not – heal.
Morey says there’s no question his symptoms are related to brain trauma he sustained playing football.
“You cannot feel that kind of pain and have it not be related to brain damage,” he told NPR. “The dysfunction, the pain, the misery, the confusion, the desperation, the depression. …
“There were instances in my life that would never have existed had I not damaged my brain.”
“It is completely unraveling.”
The damage is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degeneration of the brain caused by repeated brain trauma and concussions. It is found in the brains of former NFL players, as well as those who played only in high school and college. It appears years – sometimes decades – after the original brain injury and shows itself in myriad ways. Memory loss, confusion, impulse control problems, dementia, depression, suicide.
Despite what the NFL would like you to believe, the damage is real. And, football is to blame.
Apologists say that players know the risk and can choose their fate.
That doesn’t absolve the NFL from its responsibility to provide proper treatment to its current players and adequate medical care to its former players.
I know the risk, too. And, I, too, can choose.
I love a good game. I really do.
But, if it means that even one player will struggle some day with brain damage and dementia simply to entertain me today, count me out.
My previous posts on brain injuries and concussions in sports:
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The Sports Legacy Group works to raise awareness to CTE and brain trauma in athletics and in the military. They work to help coaches and athletes at all levels of sports better understand how to prevent head trauma, as well as encourage proper treatment of concussions so that the brain may better heal.
For more on their efforts click here.
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Frontline recently updated their report.
And, for the powerful book that accompanies it click here.